Gabe DeRita – Founded in FoCo Podcast

Want to help your team show up, do their best work, and – most importantly – stick around because they’re truly happy and aligned with the work? Gabe DeRita from Effective Connection LLC joins Nick to share the 5 steps to get there.

Learn more from Gabe at:

You can check out Gabe’s panel at Founded in FoCo here:

The Founded in FoCo Podcast is hosted by Nick Armstrong, Lead Organizer of Founded in FoCo and Geek-in-Chief of WTF Marketing. Hear more great interviews with founders in and around Fort Collins at:


*automated with minimal editing, may contain errors or typos

Gabe DeRita 0:00
Helping people discover their values and align with those values, and then create a life of action that’s rooted in those values. So they can show up more authentically to whatever they’re doing. And that doesn’t necessarily mean like quitting your job and joining the circus all the time, right? A lot of times, it might just mean being really intentional with what matters to you, and designing your actions to align with those key pieces that might be missing.

Nick Armstrong 0:27
Hey, it’s Nick Armstrong, and you are listening to the podcast, every episode, we get to talk with a mover and shaker in our community doing cool and interesting things in the world of small business. And today, we’re here with Gabe DeRita. And, Gabe, I so want to hear about your business. I think it’s a fascinating area of work. And I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Gabe DeRita 0:47
Thanks, Nick, I appreciate you bringing me on and really excited for the talk we have coming up in March as well.

Nick Armstrong 0:52
Tell us about your business.

Gabe DeRita 0:54
I’m a purpose alignment coach and leadership development facilitator. And I work kind of in two parallel tracks with that. The first is helping individuals and leaders kind of align with more of what matters in their lives, and kind of improve their sense of meaning and purpose in their life. And a lot of that work is rooted in kind of helping people discover their values and align with those values, and then create a life of action that’s rooted in those values. So they can show up more authentically to whatever they’re doing. And that doesn’t necessarily mean like quitting your job and joining the circus all the time, right? A lot of times, it might just mean being really intentional with what matters to you, and designing your actions to align with those key pieces that might be missing.

Nick Armstrong 1:36
I always wanted to be a trapeeze artist, myself, so…

Gabe DeRita 1:39
Yeah, yeah, I get a lot of that. I get a lot of people are like, Well, should I just like maybe focus on improv and juggling. And I’m like, you don’t have to do that to be more authentic. But sometimes it does end up being a pretty big life shift, which is kind of what happened to me and how I got into it, which we can, we can talk about in a moment. But the other side of the work is really kind of facilitation and leadership development trainings, so focused skill building workshops for teams. And some of them are even in retreat format to for individuals who just want to do this work outside of a business context. And those tools all focus on the framework of authentic relating, which is a bit of what I’m going to bring into our session for the week in March.

Nick Armstrong 2:19
So you just touched on something I think is really important: the the idea of interacting as a team in an authentic way, which, you know, if you think about not reflecting your authentic self, your true values, your core talents, whatever else it is, your passions, your areas of interest. And you bring that dynamic into a team where everybody else is doing the same thing that has a compounding effect on the quality of the work, right?

Gabe DeRita 2:46
It’s especially important in these hybrid environments where like, a lot of the teams that I serve have never even met each other in person. And maybe from here on out, they might see each other once or twice a year at a quarterly off site, like this is a permanent hybrid context. And in that environment, you don’t have the benefit of, you know, just bumping into somebody or having lunch with them or going out for coffee or something like that quite as much. And to create that connection beyond just the face on the screen. It’s important for people to feel like they have space to bring more of themselves to their work, and how they show up. And so that’s kind of what you need to maybe build a little bit more intentionally now to create that engagement to create that team cohesion. Whereas before, it might have happened more organically. I think now you’re seeing business leaders needing to be really intentional about creating those spaces for connection and just a little bit of personal understanding between colleagues, especially in a hybrid environment.

Nick Armstrong 3:40
On another episode, we talked with Acey with BoredLess who talks about bringing an integrating play into the environment and play is often something that is, you know, a collaborative thing. There’s games, you go back and forth, or competitions or whatever else. What you’re describing is something like creating a water cooler, like environment interaction for the team that would be completely remote and the value of that. We tried with tools like Slack and Zoom. You know, we’re here right now, you’re you’re traveling, you’re not in Fort Collins right now. But we’re still able to connect and connect and collaborate. What are the five minute implementable? Like right now today? What can I do to help my team build that sense of connection? If they don’t already have it?

Gabe DeRita 4:22
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I do think that, you know, there is a little bit more than just kind of virtual watercooler happening here. A lot of these games that I facilitate are meant to build kind of core emotional intelligence training and, and give people not just the skills to not just an understanding of one another, but the skills to deepen those connections outside of the structured calls. But some really fun ways to get people engaged.

One of my favorite really simple exercises for leaders that are running remote kind of teams is to do this, this thing I call constellations of concern, or anybody else where you basically ask folks, hey, who has this shared experience. So I’m gonna say, Hey, I’m a dog owner, anybody else, and folks can kind of like turn on their video in response to that question and watch everybody but kind of pop up onto the screen or like, I’m really excited for the new consulting firm, we just hired to bring some new kind of fresh perspectives into the organization, anybody else, and you kind of people kind of turn on their video settings, and they just populate into these groups of people that leaders can not only see, okay, there’s some personal stuff in common. But then also, what are some shared concerns or anxieties in the group that might be a little bit more difficult to name. But when you feel that sense of camaraderie and shared concern, it can be just a really kind of like, quick hack for leaders to get a visibility into the concerns of their team. And so that’s one I facilitate a lot that could be framed either as a fun game, like a playful way to connect and understand each other or a way to get a temperature check and pulse with the team to find out what’s going on that people might not be saying, or maybe the data isn’t visible, because it’s all just in private conversations and performance reviews.

I really like to run stuff like that on in a zoom environment to give people a chance to see one another and connect on common issues. But the way that these tools work, when they’re really embedded inside an organization is it gives folks a lot more than just that virtual water cooler. Because these skills, these practices really help deepen connection in any type of human relationship. So these can apply to personal relationships, they can apply to business contexts, they’re not just things that are kind of appropriate for the workplace only.

Nick Armstrong 6:29
I like that it’s such a low, ask for somebody, like just turn on your videos for you know, a five seconds, and then you can shut it right back off. And often we present on Zoom in a way that is, you know, very filtered. We’re very like cognizant of what we look like what we should in some up when people turn off their their self view, because they’re focused right on like, “Oh, man, does my hair look good? Is my…”

Gabe DeRita 6:55
That’s why I shaved my head, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Nick Armstrong 6:57
Exactly. So this really removes a lot of that that hidden context and just asking the question and getting folks engaged off that. How did you get started in this field? And what what inspires you about the work that you’re doing?

Gabe DeRita 7:13
Yeah, that’s a big question. I kind of had this moment in my late 20s, where I really felt out of alignment where I felt not on purpose and recognized the need to get there. And so I sort of had this dramatic, like, you know, burn my life to the ground and ride off into the sunset where I quit, like a fancy tech job, I broke up with a partner of eight years, I sold all my stuff, and I moved on to my bicycle. And that was in 2017.

And I kind of set out like looking for purpose, I use this Japanese concept called Ikigai, which has been lovingly adapted by Western culture into a handy Venn diagram, which is a combination of what you need, what you’re good at what you can be paid for – I’m sorry – what the world needs, what you’re good at what you can be paid for and what you love.

And I sort of sought sought that for myself. And when I discovered coaching and the facilitation with authentic relating work, I just kind of had a strong feeling like that was going to be it for me. And every step on that journey has kind of felt like stepping into like off of a riverbank into deeper water, when you just feel like you’re pulled along by a stronger current, the further you go into it. That’s really how this work with coaching has felt. So I made a pretty strong change in my life, a commitment to find some purpose created a lot of space to just explore and find out and really landed, I think I got really lucky in finding something I was good at that brought me a lot of meaning. And that I think has a lot of value to the world.

Nick Armstrong 8:37
You talked about your work is not about necessarily the whole-hog diving into something that you feel is like your core area passion, joining the circus or whatever else. There can be purposeful mindful shifts. And so what is the smaller version? Because you’ve been there done that got the t shirt on the bigger version. What does the smaller version look like? And how does that relate to a post COVID environment that we’re sitting in right now where somebody might not know if they’re sure about what their job is what they’re currently doing, they’re probably feeling pretty icky and like “I don’t know what to do.”

Gabe DeRita 9:13
Yeah, I love the way you frame that. And, uh, yeah, it doesn’t have to be the whole hog, like dramatic reset that I did in order to find your way to a bit more authenticity in your life. I think the best place to start is looking at the places where you don’t feel like you can welcome all of yourself I think a lot of us feel like we’re performing a role or we’re wearing a mask. And it’s really difficult to be authentic when you’re kind of like switching from like, you know, Nick, the friend to Nick, the boss, to Nick, the husband, to Nick, the friend.

If you have to be a different character in every different scene of your life that’s gonna really wear on you and make you feel like you don’t fit over time. And so I invite people to kind of ask themselves like what parts of me don’t feel welcome in the most in the role I need to play with most of the time, and can I find a way to create a space for permission permission for those parts to show up? Right, the parts that we’re nervous won’t be accepted by others will be judged and we won’t be liked or that will, people will think we’re kind of crazy. Like, you don’t have to bring all the weirdness out at once. But look at ways that you’re holding your true self back and get curious about just yeah, that space of permission or softening into those unwelcomed parts of yourself.

Because when you do that work, and when you integrate that shadow, you really find a lot more psychological safety, a lot more authenticity, a lot more realness just kind of coming through. And that tends to kind of create different outcomes for you, people might be bringing different stuff to you, they might ask you questions they didn’t before, they might be curious about you in new ways, they might tap you for different projects, right? Because they didn’t know that was something that was important to you. And so just getting curious with yourself about where you’re kind of holding back, something that’s really true inside is where I always invite people to start that project.

Nick Armstrong 10:59
Can I ask about equity? In terms of how working parents or folks who are, you know — you might not work specifically with solopreneurs, but — leaders who have a family, they have, you know, other commitments outside of their work, maybe they’re a part of a board or they’re, you know, working two jobs or other things like that. How do they make a more purposeful shift and make time for themselves in that way, because what you’re describing is something that I think a lot of working parents identify with – I have my role as a parent, I have my role as an employee, or as a leader in my organization, or I have my role as part of my church, or my area of faith or my hobbies, my social sphere, and in each area, I have a different hat that I have to wear. And that comes out with a different personality. So how do you make a purposeful shift when every area of your life is like compacted in in terms of time? Or in terms of your ability to invest energy into it? How do you do that?

Gabe DeRita 12:03
Yeah, I think you named it right there at the end, that there’s time management, and then there’s energy management, right? That we need to be able to keep some of the best energy that we have for the things that matter most to us. And if it’s been unexamined, and it’s just kind of forced on you by the structure that you’re in, in your life, you might feel a lot of misalignment. So you need to kind of go back and ask yourself, like, am I prioritizing the things that matter to me most. I don’t really believe in work life balance, I think I’ve a bit of a subversive point of view on this, I think because we’re the same human being in every arena of our lives, it’s just a kind of a story, we tell ourselves that we’re not.

If we’re not able to feel like our whole selves, and all of those contexts and create space, to understand what our needs are, and where they’re not being met, we’re going to be showing up with less than our best for our kids, for our communities for our faith, for our roles as leaders. It’s kind of like that classic corny, oxygen mask metaphor, you know, where are you like, you really can’t pour from an empty cup. And so if you are not taking personal responsibility for fulfilling your own needs, and giving yourself something that you really need to feel fulfilled, you are giving less than your best less than that, that the total available energy of you to every commitment that you have. I think giving people giving that connection between like, really taking care of your foundational needs is taking care of the people that rely on you. A lot of us don’t feel permission to do that, a lot of us feel like it’s selfish to prioritize, like, you know, an afternoon of mountain biking or taking a long bath, or like whatever it is that we need to kind of feel restored. But if we’re not routinely doing those things, we’re we’re emptying our cup, we’re building up resentment, we’re showing up with less than our best. And it takes an act of real courage and intention to do that to say, “No, I need this for me, because that’s going to make me better for everybody else in my life, too.”

Nick Armstrong 13:53
In your work, do you find that also building in support structures, if you’re a leader in an organization, like paid time off, or, you know, work-life balance type initiatives — I know you said you don’t believe in that, but — the idea of like, incorporating time for play and escapism and whatever else, and also social structures, so that folks have like an accountability partner, or that the team doing all of this work together feels supported as they’re each individually realigning their needs?

Gabe DeRita 14:27
The teams that I see most effective implementing this process are the ones that really have a strong commitment from leadership and have done the work to identify their core values and understand the unique fingerprint of the organization. And this is what we want everybody here to kind of believe in and hold each other accountable for. So you can’t just have one employee who’s the outlier, who’s going to be like, “I’m going to be the most authentic one ever, you know, and you guys are just going to have to deal with it.”

It’s got to be something that’s normalized from the top but then handed over Are to the individual contributors in the rank and file to say this is yours to cultivate as well. Right? So we can’t just as leaders be up here saying this thing all the time, we need to all hold each other accountable for consistent behavior that creates the conditions we all agree we want from our workplace. And so it’s not enough to just have it on a piece of paper on the wall as the mission statement, it’s not enough for like one team or one manager to really embody it, it’s got to be something that everybody’s excited to participate in together, because that’s how community is created. That’s how culture is created. Human beings have been doing this, since we were, you know, living in caves. It’s like, what are the shared values of this space? And how do we all create like a web of accountability that’s held in common for espousing and acting on those values consistently.

So I don’t think it’s just like your PTO policy, or it’s the quarterly kind of off site or the fun Employee Appreciation Day, it’s not enough to just have it exist in those moments. If it’s then not like it doesn’t show up anywhere else in the organization, your employees are going to know that, like your values are false, right. So if they don’t see it in consistent action, and if they don’t feel the safety due to take some risks, or to stand up for the things that they really care about inside the organization, it’s not gonna sink in to the level that it needs to to truly transform the culture of that business. And the teams that are most effective that I work with are the ones that have kind of done that, that hard work at the leadership level, to identify those values. But then to really proactively empower their managers, and then their individual contributors to show up and honor those values in practice.

Nick Armstrong 16:35
Can you tell me a little bit about what this looks like in an organization and how these principles would come into play? And what what your toolkits look like, specifically?

Gabe DeRita 16:45
Yeah, I really wanted to get a chance to name some of these practices that I’ve been talking about, right? Because I think it folks don’t understand some of the ideas behind this stuff. It might just sound like fun, watercooler games, or like, “Oh, who cares if you turn on or off your video, right?” But what are the practices that create authenticity in the workplace in relationship, there’s five of them. And they’re really simple. They’re simple on paper. In practice, they’re a little bit more. I don’t want to say difficult, but they require consistent effort.

The first is to welcome everything, which just means that we’re not shutting down or shutting out, we’re kind of staying open between that fight or flight space to really welcome what’s arising in the moment.

The second is to assume nothing, which is actually impossible to do. What this really means is that we’re noticing our assumptions, we’re naming them and dropping them. So we’re softening our reliance on past models, we’re trying to get curious about the story we have about someone else’s behavior, or the meaning we’re ascribing to their actions, and trying to really meet them with a place of curiosity instead of confrontation.

The third is to own our experience, which really means that we’re trying to take ownership, take that ability to respond as our primary kind of concern, like you can’t really control what happens to you, but you can control how you react. So owning our experience, is the third practice.

The fourth is to reveal our experience, which doesn’t mean that we’re telling everybody what we’re thinking all the time. But it means that we’re getting curious about the parts of what’s happening for us and recognizing, where does it need not being met? Where’s the value not being honored? How do I want to choose my ownership of that in the moment, and really feeling safe to reveal and tell someone what’s going on instead of assuming they know what you’re thinking, which I think all of us are guilty of, to some degree.

And then the fifth practice is honoring self another, which I joke is kind of like the rug in The Big Lebowski, it really ties the room together, like this is where they all meet. And we can do this really easily with one key question, which is what’s needed here? So what do I need? What do you need? Are we aware of each other’s needs? Is there any place that they kind of meet in the middle so we could draw that Venn Diagram of relationships and move towards that common ground? And so with those five practices, that that are welcome everything, assume nothing, own your experience, variance, reveal your experience and honor self and other when we’re consistently practicing those as individuals and leaders, they really start to influence the culture of a team in a positive direction.

Nick Armstrong 19:03
And like you said, it really seems to take that whole team buy in to get everybody on the same page to operate in the most authentic way possible in that that environment, right?

Gabe DeRita 19:13
That’s when it really thrives, but I don’t want to create the expectation that it only works if we have 100% cooperation, because guess what, everybody’s gonna go, “Well, that’s never gonna happen. So let’s not even try,” right? You really need to model this behavior in your relationship if you’re committed to change, because others will respond differently to you when you’re showing up with the intention for deepening relationship instead of creating confrontation. Right? We’ve all been in a room with somebody who just has that kind of magnetic energy, who feels authentic and feels open and immediately creates a sense of trust. That’s somebody who’s committed to these practices and is modeling it in their behavior. And equally we felt different in rooms with people who we feel like are kind of guarded or getting something from us or kind of have some ulterior motive that isn’t revealed. Right. So like If you can be the leader of this work in any relationship in your life, and I promise you, if you commit to these practices, people are going to show up differently to connection with you, and will have a ripple effect around you to really influence the behavior of others and create that culture from a network perspective, instead of just a top down or a total uniform buy in, you can have individual nodes of this functioning inside of a team or relationship and really kind of change the way things work from the inside out.

Nick Armstrong 20:27
Where can we find out more about you and your business?

Gabe DeRita 20:30
A couple of ways to get in touch with me. The first is come to my session at Founded in FoCo, which is going to be on the first day on March 1, I’m going to be giving a workshop on difficult conversations and how to apply these to challenging interactions. The second is on my website, You can read a little more about my work there and reach out to me there. I also use Instagram a lot. So I’m on there at @FUNNGABE, you get a little more of my mushroom nerd side on that platform, or just via email [email protected]. It’s a great way to reach out and connect and learn more.

Nick Armstrong 21:06
Gabe, thank you so much for being here with me today. I so appreciate all of the insight that you shared on how to get the most out of your team and help people feel like they truly belong in the workplace and that they’re doing their best work.

Gabe DeRita 21:20
Thanks, Nick. I’m honored to have the opportunity and really hope somebody found at least one interesting thing they want to take from this conversation.

Nick Armstrong 21:26
For sure. And for more from Gabe, make sure to visit us at March 1st through 3rd. And for more great entrepreneurial advice from your fellow enthusiast about small business and starting great things in our community. Visit And see you next time.

Hey, thanks for listening. I’m Nick Armstrong and this is a podcast. For more great interviews like this one. Join us at

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